Although it has been more than a year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions continue and the ability of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) to return to the U.S. in a timely manner are still impacted.
Although called Permanent Lawful Status it is anything other than Permanent, especially for those who remain outside of the US for an extended period of time. The following rules of thumb apply to LPRs when travelling outside of the US:
- Travel outside of the US for less than 6 months generally is okay. There is no presumption that the Lawful Permanent Resident has abandoned their residence. However, frequent trips outside of the US for 4-5 months at a time could still potentially raise a presumption if the LPR is spending little time inside the US. For example, an LPR who travels outside of the US for 4 months, returns for 1 month and then travels again for another 5 months is likely to be the subject of scrutiny, particularly where there is a repeated pattern of doing this.
- Travel outside of the US for more than 6 months but less than 12 months generally raises a presumption that an LPR has abandoned their residence. However, this presumption can be rebutted by showing that it was not your intention to abandon your residence. For further details on how to demonstrate this see below.
- Travel outside of the US for more than a year invalidates your green card unless you have applied for a re-entry permit prior to your departure.
For LPRs planning to be outside of the US for 6 months more, it is recommended to apply for a re-entry permit. A re-entry permit is valid for up to 2 years.
Due to COVID and the various travel restrictions in place many LPR’s found themselves in a position whether they were not able to return to the US in time and in some cases they have stayed outside of the US for more than 1 year. Unfortunately, USCIS has not announced any flexibility in the rules and therefore those who have remained outside of the US for more than 1 year and did not apply for a re-entry permit will not be able to use their green card for return travel. Instead, they will need to apply for a returning resident visa (SB-1) at the Consulate.
For LPRs who have been outside of the US for more than 6 months but less than a year, it is important to provide evidence to rebut the presumption that you have abandoned your residence. This can include the following:
- Evidence that you have maintained a home in the US to include mortgage or rent payments, utility bills, etc;
- Evidence that you have a job in the US in the form of a letter from your employer;
- Evidence that you made attempts to return to the US if your trip was extended due to COVID. This can include attempts to book return travel, caring for a sick relative, etc; and
- Financial evidence showing ties to the US such as bank accounts, credit cards, car loans, etc.
If you have questions or concerns about return travel, please reach out to PLG Partner Chris Prescott at firstname.lastname@example.org.